Rob Huff took his first win of the season and threw himself right into the title battle for the Kumho TCR World Tour at Vallelunga, with the Audi Sport Team Comtoyou driver fighting his way through at the start of a race filled with incident and drama.
Ma Qing Hua started from the pole of the reversed grid in his Lynk & Co ahead of John Filippi’s Audi, with Néstor Girolami’s ALM Motorsport Honda third. Before the lights went out, Girolami’s car was moving and almost ran into Ma’s ahead. The Argentine ironically ended up making the worst start of all and fell down the order, and then was involved in an incident with Santiago Urrutia’s Lynk & Co at the exit of Turn 2 which saw him propelled across the infield. Yann Ehrlacher made his way past Filippi but was under attack from Huff who had started in P5.
Huff made his way past Ehrlacher, and then started to close in on Ma. Further back, the two BRC Hyundai cars of Norbert Michelisz and Mikel Azcona were battling side-by-side through the first sequence of corners, and then they ran wide giving away the position to Thed Björk.
By the end of lap three, Huff had caught Ma and overtook him for the lead, with Ehrlacher also getting past. As the cars went onto the start of lap 4, Filippi made contact with Ma at Turn 2, with the latter heading into a violent spin, but he was able to continue. Filippi meanwhile was involved in further contact with Urrutia and went crashing into the barrier, which required the safety car to be deployed. Urrutia’s race was also undone as the damage caused a tyre to come off his car.
When the race resumed, Huff began to build a lead over Ehrlacher, who was under threat from Huff’s teammate Frédéric Vervisch. The two Hyundai drivers swapped positions in the battle, with Azcona now free to push forward, making his way back past Björk at the end of lap 10; Michelisz followed him through and Björk shuffled back down to sixth.
The duo closed up on the battling pair of Ehrlacher and Vervisch, which forced the Belgian to switch to a defensive posture. Huff meanwhile went on to win the race by 4.7 seconds over Ehrlacher, with Vervisch finishing on the final spot on the podium.
The two Hyundai drivers swapped back before the line, with Michelisz finishing fourth ahead of Azcona, helping the Hungarian add to his points tally.
Marco Butti finished a brilliant seventh, just behind Björk and that result meant he was the winner of the TCR Italian Festival ahead of Kobe Pauwels and Kevin Ceccon,
Michelisz continues to lead the standings heading to his home race, by a slightly reduced margin of 25 points over Ehrlacher, while Huff is now up to third in the standings, just seven points further behind.
The next round of the Kumho TCR World Tour takes place next weekend with the TCR Europe series at the Hungaroring.
Vallelunga – Race 2
TCR Italian Festival - points